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Archive for the ‘America’ Category

Military and political aspects here, international opinion here, etymology of Cast Lead, and first, second, and third parts about the Arab World’s opinion, and the Israeli public’s reaction (at time of writing).

The reaction of the Jewish world in the diaspora to the events in Gaza has been, frankly, highly disappointing. Not extremely surprising, but disappointing nonetheless. I do not mean that I expected an outpouring of support for Israel, but at the very least, not to take an indefensible stand against Israel. Granted, most young American Jews don’t care about Israel very much, but, as a Zionist, I cannot help but express my disdain for opinions that, in effect, value Israel’s enemy over the lives of fellow Jews.

I attended a rally in support of Israel last week, in Washington D.C. No, I still don’t believe rallies and demonstrations from over here change much over there. However, I was pleased to see that most of the Jewish community and its leaders do support Israel and do support Israel’s self-defense. In the back of the room (the rally took place in a synogogue that is also used to host events from time to time), there were two girls holding up signs saying “Not in my name.” I wanted to say, that if that is how you think, and you say that from over here – then yes, Israel is not acting in your name, for you have effectively cut yourself off from the Jewish people. You have rendered yourself solely part of some amorphous group that calls itself “culturally Jewish,” or “Jew-ish.” Jews are a people, and don’t worry, Israel doesn’t act in your name, Israel acts in defense of the Jewish state.

About eight months ago, an organization by the name of J Street was founded, a left-wing political action committee on issues relating to Israel and the Middle East. They portend to represent the silent majority among American Jews, which I doubt. But if they do, American Jewry is even more hopeless than I thought. Relatively early during the Gaza campaign, they came out with a long statement, calling for an immediate end for violence in the region, and showed their utter lack of understanding when it comes to Israel:

While there is nothing “right” in raining rockets on Israeli families or dispatching suicide bombers, there is nothing “right” in punishing a million and a half already-suffering Gazans for the actions of the extremists among them.

I could go on about how Israel is not “punishing” anyone. Punitive actions have not be carried out by Israel in decades. I could call them on the moral equivalency they, in effect, claim exists between Israel and Hamas’s actions. I could criticize their extreme naviete, at best, and at worst, their willingness to allow Israelis to be targets of Hamas’s antisemitism. However, others have done this for me. First, Eric Yoffie (president of the Union for Reform Judaism), not a man with whom I ordinarily agree, has responded to J Street directly, calling their statement “deeply distressing” and “morally deficient,” and he correctly sees the “Israeli government doing what it must to end rocket attacks against its citizenry.”

Another, much harsher, response to J Street, takes an extra step and calls them anti-Israel. Noah Pollack writes in Commentary’s blog, Contentions, and questions “any limits to [J Street’s] capacity for self-delusion about the nature of Hamas,” and declares: “It is time that thinking people started calling J Street what it actually is — an anti-Israel group.” Even Jeffrey Goldberg, on the opposite end of the political spectrum from most of Commentary’s writers, said about their statement: “J Street Blows It.”

James Kirchick, also at Contentions, made the strongest argument against J Street. Since arguing with them point-by-point would be futile, Kirchick said this: “Street has the right to its extreme leftist, capitulationist opinions, but it does not have the right to claim, as Ben-Ami once did, that it represents the “broad, sensible mainstream of pro-Israel American Jews.’” Game. Set. Match. They have every right to their opinions. However, they represent, largely, well, themselves.

Another player on the Jewish world scene is blog, Jewschool. With the start of Cast Lead, this was posted. Advocating against Israeli self-defense, the writer preempts any intellectual discourse, calling it a “perverse game of rhetorical ping-pong,” and accuses Israel of “squeezing the life out of Gaza.” I might be not up to date on the latest terminology, but will someone please explain to me how allowing thousands of tons of medical supplies and food furthers a cause of “squeezing the life out of Gaza”? Not to mention the warnings, so that empty buildings will be hit, or the dud missiles, or the Gazans being treated by Israel, in Israeli facilities. But no, the Jewish world’s reaction is apparently another example of “protest oppression and human-rights abuse anywhere in the world, but are all too willing to give Israel a pass.” He accuses world Jewry of practicing a double-standard against Israel. Unbelievable.

While in France, and in New York people rally in defense of Israel, on sites such as Jewschool and in Canada Jewish groups attack “Israel’s massacre,” effectively in defense of Hamas. The Canadian group is either confusing or practicing demagoguery, drawing a false analogy between targeting civilians and implementing a ground offensive. With regards to larger organizations, here is JTA’s overview of their positions.

To sum up, most of world Jewry supports the operation, but an increasingly loud minority, claiming to represent more people than they actually do, has come out against Israel, not only from a strategic standpoint, but claiming Israel has no moral standing to act in self-defense.

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The Value of Birthright?

I  actually do think that Birthright has had a lot of positive consequences. While I am not aware of any studies on the topic, I do believe that the increase in North American aliyah is, at least somewhat, a result of Birthright. Many aspects of the program, however, remain unexamined. These include the value of such a massive investment of Jewish communal funds, and the marginal return on this incredible expense (costing the Israeli taxpayer, as well).

Talking:Loud::Saying Nothing raises a lot of these questions, and suggests how these vast sums of money might be better directed. Unfortunately, I do not see anything changing anytime soon, because Talking Loud’s proposal would, in effect, leave the diasporic Jewish organizations and leaders, community-less.

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Condoleezza Rice has apparently understood what has been clear well before her latest whirlwind tour of the Middle East. Namely, that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal by the end of the year is not possible.

However, Rice does not focus on the real issues preventing peace. She has found yet another way to blame Israel, saying it is really largely because of the political situation in Israel.”

Rice cannot possibly believe that a conflict that has lasted for decades could be solved within a few short months if the upcoming Israeli elections were not an issue. Maybe what she really means is that Israeli democracy is the real obstacle?

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Rahm Emanuel and Israel 3

I’ve already expressed my concerns with Obama’s choice of Rahm Emanuel for White House Chief of Staff. Shmuel Rosner confirms them:

Emanuel might be even more problematic for Israel because of his Israeli background. He was “problematic” in the past – some Israeli officials with which I spoke do not remember him fondly (others do) and think of him as a condescending, know-it-all, aggressive, pushy.

In referring to a letter Emanuel wrote last year to the Israeli ambassador in Washington, complaining about Israel’s attitude towards Sudanese refugees, Rosner characterizes Emanuel as “Know it all – pushy – and also very wrong.”

As I’ve already said, unless Emanuel packs his bags and moves to Israel (which is his right, nay, his duty), he has no right to tell Israel what to do. We’ve already been down this path, where a pushy American causes Israel to make harmful moves. Be worried. Be very, very worried.

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Yiddish AND Hebrew

Ynet has an interesting article on the revival of the Yiddish language. Ynet focuses on the alleged dichotomy between Hebrew and Yiddish. Yet, one should not need to choose between the two, as a professor quoted in the article says, “Jewish literacy requires both Yiddish and Hebrew.”

However, saying that “Yiddish is the ancestral tongue of most American Jews” is misleading, and it implies that is the only linguistic heritage of most American Jews. Yes, Yiddish was the lingua franca of most Asheknazi Jews for a long time, but Hebrew is the language of the Jewish people, and it always has been. Unfortunately, for much of our history, Hebrew was relegated to minimal use, primarily in prayer and study. However, Judaism is not a European invention, and long before Yiddish Jews ever set foot in Europe, our forefathers were speaking Hebrew.

Even so, Jews spent centuries in Europe, and developed a culture of their own. Yiddish was a big part of that, in literature, theater, and in daily life. Rememberance of the past has always been a significant theme in Judaism, from the commandment to remember Amalek, to the modern-day obligation never to forget the Holocaust.

Even in Israel, there is a Yiddish revivalism movement, which would seem contradictory to early modern Zionism’s rejection of this “diaspora language.” Hebrew is well established enough today in Israel, and Yiddish does not present a danger to the real Jewish language, nor does it represent a movement promoting a return to the diaspora. Remembering our entire heritage is important, and it does not, in any way, reject the return to the Jewish sovereignty in Israel after thousands of years. נישט אזוי?

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Jeffrey Goldberg writes:

Rahm, precisely because he’s a lover of Israel, will not have much patience with Israeli excuse-making, so when the next Prime Minister tells President Obama that as much as he’d love to, he can’t dismantle the Neve Manyak settlement outpost, or whichever outpost needs dismantling, because of a) domestic politics; b) security concerns, or c) the Bible, Rahm will call out such nonsense, and it will be very hard for right-wing Israelis to come back and accuse him of being a self-hating Jew. This is not to say that he’s unaware of Palestinian dysfunction, or Iranian extremism, but that he has a good grasp of some of Israel’s foibles as well.

This is precisely the problem with U.S.-Israel relationship. America gives Israel money, and it return it expects to basically control Israeli policy issues. My views on American aid to Israel are already known – this Gordian knot must be cut by ending American aid, and the uneven relationship that follows, so that a true alliance can be forged.

In any case, the U.S., like any Jew who has decided to cast in his lot with a country other than Israel, has no right to “call out” any “nonsense” on the part of the Israeli government. What is, and is not, nonsense in Israel is for the Israeli public to decide. Any decision on outpost-dismantling, settlement evacuation or the construction of new towns anywhere is simply beyond the purview of the United States Government. Israel does not have to give anyone any reason for enacting policy as it sees fit.

I’m very happy Goldberg has faith in the next White House Chief of Staff’s ability to “grasp of some of Israel’s foibles.” Wonderful. Israel’s foibles (which are not what Goldberg thinks they are) are not for America to judge or challenge. The American view of what should or should not happen in the Middle East has, time and time again, caused much more harm than good.

The U.S. has enough problems of its own. As the Talmud says, “קשוט עצמך ואחר קשוט אחרים,” which loosely translated, means, “Judge yourself and only then judge others.”

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Congressman Rahm Emanuel has accepted Obama’s offer to serve as the next White House Chief of Staff. One can only hope that he lives up to his heritage, and doesn’t turn out to be like the last child of an Irgun member to wield power, and attempts to remain true to the ideals for which his father fought.

UPDATE: “In an email to NBC News, Emanuel spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg denies the reporting that Emanuel has accepted the chief of staff job.” Nevertheless, it still seems likely that he will accept the job. “Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel has, as expected, accepted the job as chief of staff to President-elect Barack Obama, according to informed Democratic sources.”

UPDATE 2: I shouldn’t be holding my breath. Oh, I’m not.

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